Chanda Beppu, vice president of Global Beverage Innovation at Starbucks, led the lecture Innovation for Starbucks at UW Tacoma. Hosted by the Milgard School of Business on Jan. 17 from 12:20–1:20 p.m. in the Keystone building, this lecture focused on innovation within the Starbucks company.
Beppu, who has worked with Starbucks for close to 12 years, started with the company as a Senior Finance Analyst, eventually being promoted to Director of Brand Management in tea and refreshment and now her current position.
“This is an opportunity for the UW Tacoma community to hear the story of a successful business leader and learn what path she [Chanda Beppu] followed to get where she is today,” Alison Hendricks, director of operations and administration of the Milgard School of Business, said.
The many topics Beppu covered ranged from beverage making, coffee production, the origin of coffee, market penetration and Starbucks future plans and values. Attendees were able to learn about where coffee comes from and recent innovation at Starbucks.
One important point that Beppu discussed was how Starbucks tries to help maintain a healthy lifestyle for their customers, as well as aims to find ways to improve on healthiness with their business partners and customers.
“As we think about healthy lifestyle, Starbucks has sort of a equity in fun and flavored drinks that are [treat] in our customers day,” Beppu said. “We do want to be a place where we are a part of a healthy lifestyle. How do we do that?”
These types of questions allowed attendees to contemplate how a company, such as Starbucks, should take steps to create that lifestyle.
Another important example Beppu wanted to share with students was how crucial it was to consider the procedures of preparing hot and cold coffee, and how they differ from each other.
“Cold coffee is an interesting space for us. For so many years hot coffee has been the bulk of coffee consumption [globally],” Beppu said. “In the last three years or so, cold coffee has been a part of the market that has been growing.”
Beppu also addressed how competition can change the market, using the example of McDonald’s beginning to sell more than just standard coffee in 2009. As she spoke about the experience her team went through with this, Beppu stated that the competition was ultimately beneficial to Starbucks.
“McDonalds ended up really teaching the mainstream consumer what espresso was and that when espresso was mentioned in their advertising, whether it was vanilla latte or caramel macchiato, our sales benefited as well,” Beppu said.
Starbucks’ recent elimination of plastic straws was also a discussed, with Beppu informing students of other alternatives, such as reusable cups in their stores. While customers can also request a “for here” ceramic mug, Beppu mentioned these are not not on display in stores anymore due to storage space.
Because Starbucks is a global company, Beppu also talked about receiving customer feedback from different countries and how partner data is updated when a new product is released at Starbucks. The audience then learned about training kits — where Starbucks’ partners go through a specific training and taste-test the new espresso that comes out.
At the end of the event, Beppu concluded with discussing how Starbucks purchases its coffee from 30 different countries, and continuously invites various farmers to Starbucks farms to show them the unique ways their farms handle and grow coffee.
“Speakers such as Chanda Beppu, impact the campus in a number of ways,” Hendricks said. “Hearing the stories of successful people and learning about the challenges they overcame offers a new perspective on success.”